WASHINGTON—Today, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced legislation—S. 2773—that would pave the way for a sustainable West Coast swordfish fishery by phasing out the use of drift gillnets in ocean waters off California.
The bill will facilitate the phase-out of large-scale driftnet fishing for swordfish and promote the adoption of alternative fishing practices that reduce the incidental catch of living marine resources.
“The use of driftnets to target swordfish harms too many endangered or protected marine animals and should be phased out,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s unacceptable that a single California fishery that uses this type of driftnet is killing more dolphins and porpoises than the rest of the West Coast combined. Our bipartisan bill will remove harmful large mesh driftnets from our oceans and encourage more sustainable fishing methods.”
No longer used throughout the high seas and ocean waters surrounding the Mediterranean, Russia and the rest of the U.S., these mile-long mesh nets are still allowed to drift overnight in waters off California to capture swordfish. These nearly invisible nets entangle, injure and kill marine mammals like whales, dolphins and sea lions as well as sea turtles, sharks and other important fish species.
“Targeting swordfish with drift gillnets is an indiscriminate and highly destructive way to fish,” said Oceana’s deputy vice president of the Pacific, Susan Murray. “This fishery tosses overboard more marine life than it keeps. With cleaner, more selective fishing gears available, there is no reason to continue using antiquated methods that inflict unnecessary harm to ocean wildlife.”
For more information about swordfish drift gillnets and gear alternatives visit www.oceana.org/stopthenets